Business is always seeking new ways to train effectively, and MicroLearning is enjoying a recent and rapid uptake. Learners decide what and when to learn. Recently, we have seen organisations choose MicroLearning to educate about safety topics. Training using this method is likely to be influenced by the uptake of mobile devices and young people’s learning preferences.
For this article, we review research that investigates the views of several users of MicroLearning. We use their experience to reflect on recent trends in safety training.
What is MicroLearning?
Due to the necessity of work-based, lifelong and personal learning, MicroLearning is a new way of responding. This method trains in small chunks of content delivered using technology. Popular features include that it is learner-centric, affordable, interactive, and well designed.
MicroLearning sits well within eLearning methodologies and is all about training in small doses, often daily. The training assists people in finding what they are looking for, without having to wade through a whole load of extra information.
When we have a specific question, we want it answered quickly and succinctly. In doing so, there is a stronger likelihood of retention of that information.
MicroLearning allows the learner’s brain to explore its curiosity and individual patterns.
Smartphones and other mobile devices are driving MicroLearning. The changing of workplace demographics are also encouraging a move to shorter training. We rely heavily on our smart devices to help us retain information as our attention spans continue to shorten. Generations who grew up in the computer age have become accustomed to getting information online and immediately.
What are the advantages?
There are several advantages to using MicroLearning; these include that it
- Can be completed in short time bursts;
- Requires little effort in individual training sessions;
- Involves specialised and single topics;
- Is fun and engaging;
- Ensures the worker is regularly updated;
- Is casual and informal;
- Offers flexibility where workers can view material via smart devices;
- Can be provided “just in time,” “just in place” and “just enough”; and
- Is cost-effective.
What are the disadvantages?
MicroLearning is not designed to replace all training. It is not useful when workers need:
- To learn complex skills, processes, or behaviours;
- Consistent practice; and
- Feedback on their performance.
What do the results say?
In the study, 84 respondents made up of students, teachers and workers completed a survey. The survey was investigating their learning preferences concerning technology and MicroLearning methods. For example, the study asked:
Is MicroLearning the best learning system for working environments?
The results show that 80% of the respondents are looking for a smart and straightforward learning system. They want short bursts of training in the basics to improve their knowledge. Most people are interested in learning using smart devices. They prefer videos, audio, images, and storytelling. 72% of respondents believe that MicroLearning is a suitable method to train across diverse subjects.
How can we use MicroLearning to train safety?
MicroLearning is already in use for several business purposes, including leadership, supervision and technical skills. However, it is relatively new to safety and mental health training. In the last ten years, in most organisations, safety training has not advanced significantly. Many organisations are still using printed and long-winded safety manuals and training materials.
Where MicroLearning can help organisational safety is when we want to train in specialised, individual tasks. These might be stand-alone or part of a broader topic. For example, when we are instructing on how to correctly insert hearing protection or how to put on a fall-arrest harness. Or we might offer, quick reminders of workplace bullying policies or stress-reducing tips.
One advantage of MicroLearning is that it enhances the retention of knowledge by making an abstract point more concrete. For example, we could use this method to demonstrate how to apply safety procedures in the context of the worker’s job. A second advantage is that it helps organisations provide prescriptive training before a potential problem. Finally, Microlearning offers an opportunity to promote corporate values and cultural goals.
To ensure effective MicroLearning for safety training, organisations should:
- Focus on one topic at a time for each training piece;
- Use interactive multi-media deliveries;
- Move away from lengthy classroom training and printed manuals;
- Provide short videos of less than 5 minutes; and
- Assess using short quizzes to check progress.
MicroLearning is becoming a widely-used element of training in organisations and is now entering the safety and mental health domain. The distinct advantage is the ability to provide ongoing, year-round learning in small bursts. As part of an eLearning solution, MicroLearning is a low cost and useful method to improve workplace safety and increase knowledge retention.
Although MicroLearning has a place in workplace training, it will never be the one-stop-shop because there are instances when it is not practical or appropriate. There are times when there is no substitute for face to face training.
However, MicroLearning addresses the issue of training workers with a short attention span. It indulges our love of technology by delivering the training on our smart devices. By focusing on a single concept it helps us to retain the information more easily. Finally, it quenches our appetite for immediate answers. It’s great news for organisations because they can now offer “just in time,” “just in place” and “just enough” training in advance of a potential problem.